James Spann: Rain, storms arrive in Alabama late tomorrow night

James Spann: Storms headed for Alabama Saturday night from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

ANOTHER WARM DAY: We are forecasting a high of 80 degrees today; the current record at Birmingham for Feb. 23 is 83, set in 1996. But a high of 80 is still 19 degrees above average for the date. The intense upper high over the Southeast will keep most places dry today with a partly sunny sky; any showers should be few and far between.

WEEKEND STORMS: I think a decent part of the day tomorrow will be dry; showers should be widely scattered. A warm south wind will increase, averaging 10-20 mph by afternoon. Then, late tomorrow night, the cold front that has been parked just north and west of Alabama will get a southward nudge, and will bring a band of showers and thunderstorms into the state. The Storm Prediction Center has a slight risk of severe storms defined for northwest Alabama, west of a line from Huntsville to Jasper to Reform, with a marginal risk down to Gadsden, Birmingham and Reform.

TIMING: Models are trending a tad slower; the main threat for northwest Alabama will come from midnight tomorrow night through 5 a.m. Sunday. For Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Anniston and Gadsden, the risk of stronger storms will come after 4 a.m.

THREATS: The main threat will come from strong straight-line winds across the northwest corner of Alabama late tomorrow night. While one or two small, short-lived tornadoes are possible, they are not likely. And some small hail is not out of the question. The storms should weaken as they move into more stable air over north/central Alabama early Sunday morning.

RAIN AMOUNTS: The front will become stationary Sunday, and the chance of rain will continue through the day across a decent part of the state. Rain amounts of 1 to 2 inches are likely, and there could be some localized flooding issues. HPC has a slight risk of flooding for parts of north and central Alabama in its excessive rain outlook.

We should also note a few strong storms could redevelop Sunday afternoon south of I-59; the SPC has a marginal risk defined, as strong, gusty winds will be possible.

Sunday will be cooler, with a high in the 60s.

NEXT WEEK: Lingering showers are possible Monday morning, but for now Monday afternoon and Tuesday look dry. Then, showers are possible Wednesday and Thursday morning, followed by drier, cooler air Friday.

LONG RANGE: We are still looking at a negative Arctic Oscillation/North Atlantic Oscillation combo as we head into March, a pattern that opens the door for sharp cold snaps for the southern and eastern U.S. It’s too early to be specific, of course.

ON THIS DATE IN 1975: AN EF-4 tornado tore through parts of Tuscaloosa. It first touched down in the Taylorville community and then skipped northeastward before hitting the Skyland Park area and moving on to the McFarland Boulevard exit area of I-59/20. It went on to affect parts of the Alberta City-Leland Park area and then touched down in Holt. The official path length was 14.4 miles. Along it, 289 homes were destroyed or heavily damaged, along with 20 businesses and 21 mobile homes.

The tornado nearly destroyed the new Scottish Inn motel on I-59 at McFarland. The fatality was a 23-year-old housekeeper named Thelma Hill, killed when most of the second floor of the motel was sheared away by the tornado, causing a wall to fall on her.

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